By Martha Tesema
As humans, we have routines for pretty much everything, except sleep.
Whether it’s the multiple steps we employ for our skin, the workout routines we turn to to sweat, or the self-care rituals we take on—our routines make up the majority of our days.
But have you ever stopped to consider what you don’t have a routine for?
So many of us experience sleep deprivation, insomnia, nightmares, and more, yet sleep doesn’t always get the attention it deserves when we talk about our emotional and mental health—especially considering the important role it plays in every facet of our lives.
Research shows that it’s an important part of your life to invest in. The time you sleep is used to support the functionality of your physical body, brain, and more. And according to Harvard Medical School’s Health Publishing, lack of sleep can also exacerbate mental health issues you might be experiencing.
But what does creating a sleep-care routine and practice rooted in self-care actually look like? Here are some tips on how you can get started:
Reflect on what your sleep routine looks like today
Before you dive into how you want to change your sleep routines, make sure you understand where you’re starting from.
Take a moment to audit your current sleep routines—without judgment. What do you do right before bed? What does your sleep environment look like? How do you feel when bedtime rolls around?
Then, think back to the last time you felt truly rested. What caused that feeling of rest? How long were you sleep for? What did your environment look like?
Making space and time to compassionately examine your baseline will help you better grasp what you can do to improve.
Try keeping a sleep journal
Once you’ve reflected, it’s time to gather some data to further analyze your relationship to sleep. In the mornings, jot down answers on how your sleep was the night before. Here are a few questions, inspired by Mayo Clinic, to help you get started:
●︎ How long did it take you to fall asleep? ●︎ How long did you sleep? ●︎ On a scale of 1-10, how quality was your sleep? ●︎ How many times did you wake up in the middle of the night? ●︎ Did you consume caffeine? ●︎ On a scale of 1-10, how stressed were you before you went to bed?
The goal in keeping a sleep journal is to notice larger trends over time—and these findings can help you make adjustments that can help you improve the quality of your sleep.
Start with small changes
Once you have a better idea of the changes you want to make, it’s time to implement them. But similar to other self-care habits, the changes that you incorporate into your routine slowly and over time are the ones that have the strength to last.
Examine the habits that you want to start to adapt and begin shifting your routine one small change at a time. Maybe that means starting things off by trying to set boundaries that allow you to hit the sheets at a regular time—or reducing your screen-time before bed gradually (starting with no phone for 10 minutes and working your way up to an hour).
Practice patience as you find what works for you
There are so many tools people turn to for sleep and finding what works best for you might include trying a variety of tricks over time.
Whether you’re tuning in to Shine’s sleep meditations, bedtime stories, or ambient sounds, relying on breathing techniques to soothe yourself, or journaling your thoughts to clear your mind before bed—remember that curiosity is a great skill to lean on as you build your sleep care practice.
But through it all, know that it’s OK if you have to try a lot of tools before you land on a routine that works for you. There is no such thing as failure when it comes to creating a sleep-care routine. Each attempt at building habits that work for you can help you learn a bit more about what your needs are, and how you can continue to honor them.
Remember to stay consistent and compassionate
Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to sleep care. Once you’ve gone through trial and error and have tools in your sleep-care toolkit, try your best to be consistent with the changes you make.
But know: Whatever changes you do decide to make, be sure that you’re making them with compassion at the forefront. Remember that life happens and making sure you’re giving yourself room to have off days is key. Only you can determine what success looks like, and a great place to start is remembering that success means you’re showing up for yourself with compassion through the ups and the downs.